Why We're Afraid to Ask for Help
And how you needn't be.
One of my most vivid University memories is the month before we officially resumed for first year. Peculiar because most of the rest feels like a blur.
We’d resumed in advance to start our pre-admission medicals that had to be done on the campus premises.
As someone who had grown up with some level of social anxiety (not diagnosed with the actual disorder), I was afraid of people…? I remember how I’d ignore phone calls as they rang because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation. Or how I’d hyperventilate at the door of my house at the thought of going “outside” (aka to a social gathering) alone.
Imagine my dismay when I was off to Uni where there would be loads of people. Yikes.
How I eventually overcame that to become someone who creates online is another story entirely.
See, one of those days I was lost as to where to go next. I had filled out data forms, done my basic body measurements (height and weight) and even gotten my blood samples taken. All with minimal human interaction. Safe.
All that was left was a chest x-ray. If I could only find the building.
With no signages or Google Maps to help, I had to resort to what our ancestors probably used – actually asking someone.
Imagine my surprise when the sky did, in fact, not fall. They simply pointed me in the right direction and moved on.
And then I realised — wait, you mean you can just ask?
Why do we avoid asking for help?
As a community-dependent specie, it's amusing how difficult we often find it is to reach out for help.
And apparently, a lot of it is rooted in fear.
Fear of losing status. Fear of losing control. Fear of rejection. Sounds basic but this runs deeper than one might initially think.
Rejection hits at our core because social pain can hurt as much as its physical counterpart.
Does it come from being semi-shunned as children, from asking too many questions? Or is it because of our fragile egos that detest any form of vulnerability?
But perhaps most importantly…
How do we get rid of this fear?
By being aware that most people actually do want to help.
Asking for help wasn’t my forte. It still isn’t. Most times, right before I do, my heart starts racing, my palms get sweaty and I almost chicken out. But even though I’d started from a place of not wanting to “bother anyone”, I think my reason shifted to a need for total independence which I thought was the master trait. Maybe it wasn’t based on humility as much as I would have liked to think.
However, as an adult, one major lesson for me from my medical practice is the need to ask for help (especially in form of referrals and second opinions).
The truth is most people do like helping. It releases hormones that make us feel good. And why not? Despite what we think, we want to be liked and accepted.
Being accepted means being a part of the tribe — access to all the community provides, such as food, shelter, and safety.
“We don’t have a sense of our strength until someone needs us to lift something; we can’t feel intelligent until someone asks us to solve an issue; we can’t feel wise until we’ve been brought in to adjudicate a dispute.” - The School of Life
But apart from wanting to be accepted, we also want to feel needed.
So remember that even if you do ask someone for help and they refuse (either because they don’t want to or genuinely can’t), don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world.
It also just might have nothing to do with you.